The trophy awarded to the winner of the Japan Series (or “Nippon Series”), on display at the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame (photo: Brad Smith)

Since 1950, Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) has been the highest level of baseball in Japan. Composed of 12 teams divided into two circuits, NPB seasons consist of 143 games that begin in late March or early April, and end in October with playoff baseball.

The midpoint of the Japanese baseball season is marked by All-Star festivities and ceremonies, including a multi-game All-Star Series. Schedules also feature a period of interleague play between teams of the Pacific League, which employs a designated hitter and features faster-paced games, and the Central League, which offers a more traditional style of baseball and could be likened to the National League of MLB. At the end of the regular season, six teams participate in the Japanese playoff system known as the “Climax Series.”

During this tournament, the three top teams from both the Pacific League and Central League compete in three stages of playoffs. At the end of the Climax Series, the two winners from each league meet in the best-of-seven championship known as the Japan Series. This final series has decided the champions since the formation of NPB in 1950, though Japanese professional baseball dates all the way back to 1934.

Though certain aspects of NPB gameplay are unique to Japan, such as six-man pitching rotations and tie ballgames after 12 innings, the passion for baseball is as strong – or stronger – in Japan as anywhere in the world. To find out more about the culture of baseball in Japan, consider one of our guided tours. For more about each NPB team, including history and stadium details, follow the links via the top menu.

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